If you could find out—at birth—whether your child will grow up to become super smart in math, or a really good soccer player, you would want to know, right?
But what about your child's weight? Researchers from Imperial College in London and Harvard University, claim that a new online quiz they've developed can tell parents whether their newborn is at risk for childhood obesity.
Want to find out? The online calculator (found here is based on a formula that takes into account your baby's weight at birth, your weight and that of your partner, the number of people in your household, your working status, and whether you smoked during pregnancy.
Based on results published in journal PLOSone, the quiz seems accurate. Researchers say they created their formula by looking at data from a study of nearly 4,000 children born in Finland. Those who had the highest risk of obesity showed distinct patterns when it came to certain "environmental factors" like parents' weight and a mother's occupation. The accuracy of the formula was then tested using similar studies conducted in Italy and the US. "This test takes very little time, it doesn't require any lab tests and it doesn't cost anything," says researcher Professor Philippe Froguel, Imperial College Chair in Genomic Medicine, via a school press release.
And if the quiz results put a child at risk for obesity? Researchers hope their prediction method will be used by families to make choices that support healthy growth in children.
"Once a young child becomes obese, it's difficult for them to lose weight, so prevention is the best strategy, and it has to begin as early as possible," says Froguel. "Unfortunately, public prevention campaigns have been rather ineffective at preventing obesity in school-age children. Teaching parents about the dangers of over-feeding and bad nutritional habits at a young age would be much more effective."
With more than 20 percent of all children in the US considered obese, early detection of at-risk kids does seem like a good idea. However, when we asked a few moms what they thought of the calculator, the results were mixed.
Mom of two Sarah Alvarez of Grand Forks, Minnesota, took the quiz and found that both her kids came through with flying colors. Still, she doesn't think this lets her off the hook as parent. "If I start thinking, hey, I can let my kids play video games for hours because this online quiz told me they will never get overweight, then I will be putting them at risk."
New mom Maria Thornton, of Scottsdale, Arizona, has decided not to take the quiz. "Yes, I'm curious," she explains. "But we have an active family lifestyle and eat healthy, so I feel pretty confident what the answer is in our case."
Plus, adds Thornton, "I refuse to obsess over a test result when I know the actual choices we make every day to eat well and exercise are what matter most."